Remembering Ambassador RAMON V. DEL ROSARIO SR. (1918-2008)    

      At about twelve past ten in the morning of  September 7, 2008, the Grand Old Man of JCI  finally met his Creator. At that moment, we have lost a great leader, a great patriot, a great  industrialist, and a great man. And we have lost a dear friend and mentor. 

       In his lifetime, Ambassador Ramon "Monching" V. del Rosario was such a cheerful and invigorating  presence that it was easy to forget what daunting  historic tasks he set himself. He sought to  reinvigorate the young Filipino's sense of  purpose, to restore the strength of our nation's fledgling enterprises during a period of  uncertainty and to redirect the deteriorating  moral compass our of society. These were the Quixotic causes which were hard to  accomplish and heavy with risk.  Yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit. For Ambassador del Rosario also embodied another great cause ­ what Arnold Bennett once called "the great cause of cheering us all up."  And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper  kind. Surely, it is hard to deny that Ramon del Rosario's life was providential, when we look at what he achieved in the nine decades that marked his career in government and in private industry. 

     The del Rosario family would see its share of  hardship, struggle and uncertainty. The sudden demise of Monching's father and the 1929 Great  Depression had a great impact on his life.  Throughout his childhood, he lived with his mother and siblings on a rented room of a  less-than-modest, two-storey apartment building, where scorching steam from a laundry shop below  constantly permeated through its termite-infested terrazzo. It was a time of hard work and  suffering. Fatherless at nine, he was introduced  early to the nuances of hard work, helping his  mother survive on a meager teacher’s salary  during the Depression. During his schooldays at  La Salle, he had to contend with missed lunches and often dispensed with the luxuries of  motorized transport simply to meet the costs of quality education. And out of that circumstance came a young man of  steadiness, calm and a cheerful confidence that life would bring good things. 

    His remarkable motivation and matchless determination to succeed carried him out of  mediocrity and away from the Depression. He  became the first Filipino General Manager of IBM  Philippines in 1946 at the tender of 29. In 1951, he joined Philippine American Life Insurance  Company as Executive Vice-President. In 1953, he embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture by  helping his siblings set up the Del Rosario Brothers, Inc. ­ a company that manufactured and distributed household appliances to customers on an installment basis.

     In 1956, he ­ together with a few of his friends from the JCI movement ­ incorporated the  Philippine Investment and Management Consultants (PHINMA). From his ventures in PHINMA, Monching del Rosario quickly secured for himself a premier  position among young Filipino business  entrepreneurs. After securing several affiliate companies that ranged from construction, sugar,  food to paper manufacturing, he audaciously went  for broke and built the first Filipino-owned oil  company, Filoil Refinery Corporation. Until that time, it was the biggest all-Filipino company to come into being.

      Apart from his illustrious professional career,  he was active in a number of civic and professional associations, including the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (where he was serving as National Secretary). He was also elected President of the De La Salle Alumni Association, and thrust to stalwart role in the Rotary Club of Manila and the Knights of Columbus. But it was in a small fledgling leadership development organization that cemented his lasting legacy to millions of young Filipino upstarts.

    In September of 1947, he received an invitation from an old high school friend, Artemio L. Vergel de Dios, asking him for help in forming a new group for young businessmen and professionals. He showed Monching del Rosario a magazine article  about young American men working on projects for  their communities as members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, better known as the Jaycees.  De Dios and a small band of like-minded buddies wanted to hatch a similar organization in Manila. More than this, they wanted Monching’s help to make it happen. 

      On January 3, 1948, Monching was elected as the new organization's charter president ­ a post he did not aspire for, since he expected any one of  the equally prominent scions of political and business families to be chosen. However, under his leadership, the Manila Jaycees (now JCI Manila) lived up to Junior Chamber’s original  vision of mobilizing youthful dynamism for  community service. A month after their election,  the organization launched its first project ­ a week-long “Clean Up the City Campaign.” This saw Monching and other executives removing mountains of debris and trash that had accumulated since  war’s end in various parts of Manila. 

     The project drew tremendous favorable publicity  in the newspapers. Soon, young men from provincial capitals were applying to join the JCI movement and formed their own city chapters. In a year’s time, twenty-two provincial chapters were  born and JCI members held its first National Convention from February 11 to 13, 1949 in Manila, where the national assemblage formed what is known as the Philippine Jaycees (now JCI Philippines), where Monching del Rosario was elected its first National President. Audacity and imagination distinguished the JCI movement  under his leadership. They demonstrated it in so many projects which were done that year, but it was most especially seen in their bid to host the 1950 JCI World Congress in Manila ­ the first in Asian soil.

       It was under the avenue of this successful World Congress in Manila, where around two hundred and sixty international delegates attended, that Monching del Rosario was elected to the World Presidency of Junior Chamber International ­ the first for a Filipino and an Asian. Under his administration as JCI President, Junior Chamber embarked on an aggressive membership expansion program, where the JCI movement spread like wildfire through the length and breadth of the Philippines and spilled over Asia, as far north as Japan, to countries in Southeast Asia going as far as India.  

     Because of his unblemished reputation for uncompromising honesty and unrelenting drive to excel, it was only a matter of time before he was called to government service. In 1978, President  Ferdinand Marcos appointed him Ambassador to Canada and, in one year, increased trade between the two countries by 40 percent. He formed the Canada-Philippine Council composed of leading Canadian businessmen, financiers and industrialists for the purpose of strengthening the bonds of friendship and economic cooperation between the two countries. In 1984, he was appointed concurrent Ambassador to the Federal  Republic of Germany, but resigned in February

     1986, in disgust over the fraudulent presidential elections that eventually accelerated the demise of a twenty-year-old authoritarian regime. Newly-installed President Corazon Aquino promptly  gave Monching a new posting as Philippine Ambassador to Japan, and from 1986 to 1992, he was able to mobilize substantial Japanese aid and investments under the new government.

      Since 1993, Monching del Rosario devoted more of  his time to philanthropy. Although he still sat as Chairman Emeritus of PHINMA until his demise, he spent a great amount of his time with Caritas Manila, the charity foundation of the Archdiocese of Manila, where he sat as a member of the Board of Trustees. Despite his advanced age, he still volunteered his time for charitable causes, personally supporting homes for single mothers and abandoned children, visiting prisoners and arranging free legal assistance, and espousing noteworthy causes against childhood prostitution, pornography, and free education for all.

       For all his achievements, Ambassador del Rosario seemed unperturbed by the widespread accolade. Unlike most of his contemporaries who seemed content on waxing nostalgia, he was a man always on the move. No time was wasted in him and he abhorred idleness. Even in his advanced age,  Monching possessed the passion of a 16-year old. On many occasions, he shared with me one  philosophical core: “It always goes back to our purpose here on earth.” He added, “We are here for a reason.” 

      Let it be said that Monching del Rosario has a remarkable way of trying to turn whatever he touches into a cause. To be involved in difficult problems with difficult goals seems to lift him up. He was a promoter with a national mission, a throwback to the kind of Filipino entrepreneurial zealot who believes unblushingly that his causes represent a force for good in the world. And with the legacy he left in JCI, PHINMA, and the millions of lives that he has touched over eight decades, as evidenced by the countless honors which he has received from the church, the business community and the international  neighborhood, his time-tested ideals of  professionalism, integrity and love of country,  have certainly found their uniquely esteemed place in our history. 

    Farewell,  Mr. Ambassador.

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